Not Yet!

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REVIEW

Not Yet!

By : Shweta Sharan  /  2017

Not Yet!

not-yet-english-hindi.jpg
Not Yet!
Author:
Nandana Dev Sen
Illustrator:
Niloufer Wadia
28 pages
English
Rs 150.00
ISBN: 978-9350468418
Tulika Publishers, 
2016
Tags : 
Bedtime,
Child,
Imagination,
Mum,
Rhyme,
Sleep,
Overall Rating : 
6
Story/Content : 
3
Illustration : 
4
Language : 
3
Design : 
3

Every child is an artful dodger when it comes to delaying sleep time and what better way to explore this universal little bedtime preamble than through a fun children’s book? Every child wishes he or she could squeeze a little extra time into the day and postpone sleep time, which is why Nandana Dev Sen’s Not Yet! hits so close to home. All of us have experienced this, either as parents who have wanted to ship our children off to the land of sweet dreams so that we can enjoy some peace at last, or as children ourselves, breathing down our parents’ necks for that one last story before we were put to bed.

Not Yet! is about a little girl who doesn’t want to go sleep immediately. There are too many things to do – dance with imaginary rhinos, for one. “My hippos in puddles/Want sleepy cuddles,” she says. She also has a dozen questions: “Can a frog stand on its head?” These are important questions for a child, and sometimes, they just cannot sleep until the questions are put to rest in their heads. The mother, meanwhile, is hurrying her to bed, getting her to drink her cup of milk, wash her hands and brush her teeth. All children, blessed as they are with leviathan imaginations, can understand this emotion, this desperate need to live the day to its last breath before it is done. All parents can see themselves in the mother with her eye on the clock, hurrying to get things done.

Not Yet! is written in a simple yet pleasing rhyme scheme. “Monkey needs a squeeze/She sleeps in those trees!” says the little girl, and the illustration shows her swinging across a carousel of branches, with helping hands from a crowd of giggling monkeys who look like they are in on her little secret. The little girl tickles giraffes, races an alligator, snuggles a whale, all before planting a kiss on her smiling mother and cuddling her pup, after which she is tucked into bed.

Dev Sen gets the art of rhyming just right. She deftly combines rhyme and metre, which is a big deal given that many children’s books by Indian authors don’t understand rhyme at all. There is so much more to a rhyme scheme than just the last words of successive sentences rhyming together. Poems should have a certain cadence and a precise tempo when recited. Not Yet! has both, even though it doesn’t come anywhere close to the lyrical genius of a book like The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson. Remember the musicality of “Ticky and Tacky and Jackie the Backie and Jim with two noses and Jo with the bow”?

The thing about nostalgia in children’s books is that the author can make it truly personal. There is no sense of that in Not Yet! No doubt it is fun, wittily crafted, puckish and even tender, but it doesn’t lodge in your memory the way The Paper Dolls does, with its tattered little paper dolls, its protagonist’s cruel friend or the mother’s slippers that are shaped like crocodiles. There is a hint of this sense of longing for the past in Wadia’s heartfelt illustrations, especially on the last page when the little girl is asleep and all the animals she met on her imaginary adventure are embroidered on her quilt. The illustrations on this double-spread show the origins of the little girl’s flight of fancy. As do the illustrations of a toothbrush holder with the picture of a whale, a set of fabric birds hanging by the bedside, and pictures of elephants on the bathroom towels.

Not Yet! works really well as a bilingual book, thanks again to its genius refrain. The corresponding verses in Hindi are translated beautifully by Sushmaa Roshan, with a musicality that is every bit a match for the lines in English. In fact, when I read the Hindi verses on their own, my daughter could get a sense of what was being said because of its rhythm. Children can also try guessing the Hindi names for all the animals in the story, which my daughter really enjoyed. Her new favourite word is “jalahastee”, the Hindi word for hippo, which she says with great relish. Books like these are a great way to teach a child a new language – by learning to play it by the ear and not just through grammar. Maybe this is a process that will lodge firmly in one’s memory.

Shweta Sharan has an MA in Literature and writes on education and books for Buzzing Bubs, Mint and Deccan Herald. She is mom to a seven-year-old daughter, who is happily obsessed with books and stories.

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